A fish-friendly water extraction project targeting irrigators throughout the northern Murray-Darling Basin is underway, signing up its first land manager today.
Under the $6.6m federal government project to protect native fish, pump screens will be installed with a view to protecting millions of native fish in the northern basin.
Project coordinators Southern Queensland Landscapes are delivering the project on behalf of the Queensland government, and principal project officer Tim Vale said it had real benefits for both fish and farmers.
The project was jointly announced early in December 2021 by federal Water and Resources Minister Keith Pitt and state Water Minister Glenn Butcher.
Mr Pitt said he had accelerated delivery of the project to ensure benefits could reach communities more rapidly and show the environmental benefits that could be achieved from relatively low-tech, common sense fish protection measures.
"This project is one of 10 Northern Basin Toolkit projects that together keep 70 GL of water in productive use while improving the health of our rivers and wetlands and the animals and plants that rely on them," he said.
"We don't need all farmers to install pump screens, but those who do will certainly contribute to the positive outcomes for native fish."
Mr Vale said there were many beneficial flow-on effects - reducing costly maintenance and downtime for irrigators; reducing energy consumption, saving irrigators money on fuel and electricity bills; and improving water delivery to crops thereby increasing yields and return on investment.
"That all equates to a win-win-win-win for both farmers and fish," he said. "While today marks the first contract signed in the northern basin there are several more waiting for final approvals and we are confident of having at least three pump screens in three reaches of the basin by June."
Glenn Butcher welcomed the opportunity to work collaboratively across multiple agencies on the project.
"We know this project will deliver benefits for the environment and for irrigators and this is a practical way that governments can work together to deliver improved outcomes," he said. "I'm really proud of this project and our involvement and congratulate the first landholders on their foresight to sign up."
Irrigators in the Border Rivers, Lower Balonne and Condamine catchments will be invited to monitor the success of the project and take part in demonstration days with the view of installing their own fish-friendly pump screens.
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